WGH seeks levy hike

A proposed tax increase to help Whidbey General Hospital pay for the increased demand for emergency services and construct new paramedic facilities on South Whidbey will be on the ballot in September.

If approved, it will also help finance EMS services in Coupeville and help the hospital district move toward a central clinic in Bayview.

The proposed measure would increase the property tax levy from 37 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to 50 cents per $1,000. The annual property tax bill on a $300,000 home would rise from $111 to $150, a yearly increase of $39.

With voter approval of the levy, the hospital district plans to move its South Whidbey paramedic headquarters from Freeland further south, possibly to Bayview. Freeland’s paramedic headquarters is in a house on one acre behind the Community Thrift Store on Highway 525.

And, eventually the district hopes to move Whidbey General South in Clinton to a more central location.

“We started a year ago to analyze where most of our calls came from,” said Scott Rhine, hospital administrator. “As we looked at where most of our calls were from, the nexus point is south of Freeland.”

“Bayview seems to offer the most direct access; it looks like the best location. We need a location further south of the one acre site,” Rhine added.

Islandwide in 2005, hospital paramedics responded to just under 6,000 calls; from Classic Road south there were 1,403 calls for medic service.

The hospital board has taken the first step to sell the Freeland paramedic location by adopting a resolution to sell the property.

The next step is to have several appraisals of the site before it can be listed on the real estate market.

“The hospital district has to follow specific state law in the sale of surplus property. The board made the determination that the sale will further the purpose of the district,” Rhine said.

The last hospital levy increase was in 1998, which raised the rate by 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That 1998 measure was the first increase in 20 years, and it passed with 70 percent approval by the voters.

The proposed six-year levy would dedicate 7 cents of the 15-cent increase to enhance basic life support needs and to continuing funding off-island transports, which keep advanced life support ambulances available for more serious injuries. Five cents of the increase would go to construction of central and South Whidbey paramedic quarters; one cent is needed to offset decreasing reimbursements and increasing costs.

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